You may have noticed how BalletX, Philly’s leading contemporary ballet company, has become more and more a part of the city’s performing arts landscape, with fuller seasons, more commissioning of works, and strong shows that have been leaving audiences abuzz. The company has just announced its first summer intensive program for dancers at the Wilma Theater (and on the Wilma stage) July 16–28. The program features a superb faculty including Matthew Neenan and Christine Cox (co-artistic directors of BalletX), Gabrielle Lamb (former soloist at Les Grand Ballet Canadiens), Amy Aldridge (principal at PA Ballet), Melissa Rector (star of Koresh Dance Company), Tara Keating (pictured, of BalletX), Kate Watson-Wallace (founder of anonymous bodies), and others. Interested dancers should act quickly! Auditions are on April 1st. You can find out more info here.
The opportunities for intensive dance training are sorely lacking in the city, so creating this program is a welcome one. The intensive will train dancers in many styles from ballet to gaga to BalletX’s rep. I wanted to find out more about how this program came about and why it has been structured the way it has. BalletX co-artistic director Christine Cox agreed to take a few questions, so we asked them!
Live Arts: How long have you been wanting to offer this dance training intensive, and how did it come about?
Christine Cox: We have been wanting to work with students for a long time, and the opportunity came up after sitting down with the Wilma Theater and exploring opportunities to use the theater in a new and different way. The thought of sharing with students our impressions of what it takes to be a professional dancer also motivated our decision. We want to possibly have a school in the future and this would be our first step to understanding what that means. We want to build strong, athletic, versatile dancers who could handle a full schedule similar to what a day of professional dancing feels like.
LA: It’s a pretty wide variety of movement being taught, why this approach?
CC: We believe that having a diverse schedule of physical experiences to pull from will help the artists learn to understand a variety of movement styles. Having the experience of understanding your body inside and out is important to being an artist who can interpret a choreographer’s voice. The days start with yoga or pilates to help the dancers get to the core of their strength and build the ballet technique from their center. Then comes a two-hour ballet class that gives the teacher and students enough time to break down information, and then we are off to learning contemporary movement with jazz teachers, who have an emphasis on ballet and gaga technique, to create a fluid movement quality. The best part is learning BalletX repertory that will be performed on the Wilma Stage at the culmination of the intensive.
Long ago when I was young all I wanted to do was ballet and I went to a performing arts school that forced me to take modern dance twice a week for five years. I was not pleased but it was the best thing for me because it taught me something about movement that I would have never learned in a ballet class. It also helped me define myself in the future in a ballet company and decide that my passion was really in contemporary ballet. Having an understanding of modern dance and jazz all helped to make me a more complete mover, which was attractive to choreographers. Our hope is that the artists whom we work with in our summer intensive leave with a better understanding of how to move and express themselves through their body.
LA: Why is teaching important to you? Will more curriculum-based intensives be a part of BalletX in years to come?
CC: Teaching is important to me because I love the art form and enjoy sharing all the information I have learned from the great teachers who have taught me. I am also very candid in my approach to sharing. I look to open students eyes to things they would have never thought about–for instance, how do you stand in a room with other dancers and carry your body in a way that is open and says, I want to dance and I’m good? Having danced professionally since I was seventeen in a field I was not really suited for gives me a different perspective. I also love collaborating and bringing other professionals we respect in to share their experiences. Having a strong focus on classical ballet techniques is very important, but then you must help them understand how to take that style and make it their own. BalletX plans to continue the program for the next three summers.
Thanks Christine and good luck!
More info at www.balletx.org